(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home
Tuesday, 27 November, 2018 – 10:15
Lebanese President Aoun meets with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, and his accompanying delegation at Baabda. (Dalati & Nohra)
Beirut – Asharq Al-Awsat
Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Monday emphasized the need for Syrian refugees to return to safe areas in their country.
Aoun was speaking during a meeting at the Baabda palace with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, in the presence of his accompanying parliamentary delegation.
The president said linking the Syrian refugees’ return to their homeland to reaching a political solution in Syria “raises doubts regarding their stay in their host countries,” citing the example of the Palestinian refugees.
“Seventy years have passed and the solution of the Palestinian issue has not yet been reached,” he noted.
Aoun informed Bracke that Lebanon has asked the international community and the international organizations affiliated to the United Nations to provide assistance to the displaced Syrians after their return, because they are contributing to the reconstruction of their country.
In response to a question, Aoun expressed his surprise at “international positions that ignore the need for the return of Syria refugees.”
He stressed that Lebanon was witnessing an economic crisis due to accumulating challenges, the impact of the international economic situation and the influx of displaced Syrians.
Bracke, for his part, said his country would become a member of the Security Council as of next January, and would contribute to supporting Lebanon’s causes at international platforms.
Also on Monday, Speaker Nabih Berri and Bracke signed a three-year extension to 2021 of a partnership protocol between the two countries’ councils, which provides for parliamentary cooperation in sharing expertise in legislation and supervision.
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( THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
The Dutch United Provinces declared their independence from Spain in 1579; during the 17th century, they became a leading seafaring and commercial power, with settlements and colonies around the world. After a 20-year French occupation, a Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815. In 1830 Belgium seceded and formed a separate kingdom. The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I, but suffered invasion and occupation by Germany in World War II. A modern, industrialized nation, the Netherlands is also a large exporter of agricultural products. The country was a founding member of NATO and the EEC (now the EU), and participated in the introduction of the euro in 1999.
Under Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and king of Spain, the region was part of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands, which also included most of present-day Belgium, Luxembourg, and some land of France and Germany. 1568 saw the start of the Eighty Years’ War between the provinces and Spain. In 1579, the northern half of the Seventeen Provinces formed the Union of Utrecht, a treaty in which they promised to support each other in their defense against the Spanish army. The Union of Utrecht is seen as the foundation of the modern Netherlands. In 1581 the northern provinces adopted the Oath of Abjuration, the declaration of independence in which the provinces officially deposed Philip II. Philip II the son of Charles V, was not prepared to let them go easily and war continued until 1648 when Spain under King Philip IV finally recognised Dutch independence in the Treaty of Münster.
Dutch Republic 1581-1795
Since their independence from Phillip II in 1581 the provinces formed the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. The republic was a confederation of the provinces Holland, Zeeland, Groningen, Friesland, Utrecht, Overijssel and Gelre. All these provinces were autonomous and had their own government, the “States of the Province”. The States-General, the confederal government, were seated in The Hague and consisted of representatives from each of the seven provinces. The very thinly populated region of Drenthe, mainly consisting of poor peatland, was part of the Republic too, although Drenthe was not considered one of the provinces. Drenthe had its own States but the landdrost of Drenthe was appointed by the States-General.
The Republic occupied a number of so-called Generality Lands (Generaliteitslanden in Dutch). These territories were governed directly by the States-General, so they did not have a government of their own and they did not have representatives in the States-General. Most of these territories were occupied during the Eighty Years’ War. They were mainly Roman Catholic and they were used as a buffer zone between the Republic and the Southern Netherlands.
The Dutch grew to become one of the major seafaring and economic powers of the 17th century during the period of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. In the so-called Dutch Golden Age, colonies and trading posts were established all over the globe.
Many economic historians regard the Netherlands as the first thoroughly capitalist country in the world. In early modern Europe it featured the wealthiest trading city (Amsterdam) and the first full-time stock exchange. The inventiveness of the traders led to insurance and retirement funds as well as such less benign phenomena as the boom-bust cycle, the world’s first asset-inflation bubble, the tulip mania of 1636–1637, and according to Murray Sayle, the world’s first bear raider – Isaac le Maire, who forced prices down by dumping stock and then buying it back at a discount. The republic went into a state of general decline in the later 18th century, with economic competition from England and long standing rivalries between the two main factions in Dutch society, the Staatsgezinden (Republicans) and the Prinsgezinden (Royalists or Orangists) as main factors.
Under French influence 1795-1815
On 19 January 1795, a day after stadtholder William V of Orange fled to England, the Batavian Republic (Bataafse Republiek in Dutch) was proclaimed. The proclamation of the Batavian Republic introduced the concept of the unitary state in the Netherlands. From 1795 to 1806, the Batavian Republic designated the Netherlands as a republic modelled after the French Republic.
The Kingdom of Holland 1806 – 1810 (Dutch: Koninkrijk Holland, French: Royaume de Hollande) was set up by Napoleon Bonaparte as a puppet kingdom for his third brother, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, in order to control the Netherlands more effectively. The name of the leading province, Holland, was now taken for the whole country. The kingdom of Holland covered the area of present day Netherlands, with the exception of Limburg, and parts of Zeeland, which were French territory. In 1807 Prussian East Frisia and Jever were added to the kingdom. In 1809 however, after an English invasion, Holland had to give over all territories south of the river Rhine to France.
King Louis Napoleon did not meet Napoleon’s expectations — he tried to serve Dutch interests instead of his brother’s — and the King had to abdicate on 1 July 1810. He was succeeded by his five year old son Napoleon Louis Bonaparte. Napoleon Louis reigned as Louis II for just ten days as Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte ignored his young nephew’s accession to the throne. The Emperor sent in an army to invade the country and dissolved the Kingdom of Holland. The Netherlands then became part of the French Empire.
From 1810 to 1813, when Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated in the battle of Leipzig, the Netherlands were part of the French Empire.
Kingdom of the Netherlands
In 1795 the last stadtholder William V of Orange fled to England. His son returned to the Netherlands in 1813 to become William I of the Netherlands, Sovereign Prince of the Netherlands. On 16 March 1815 the Sovereign Prince became King of the Netherlands.
In 1815 the Congress of Vienna formed the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, by expanding the Netherlands with Belgium in order to create a strong country on the northern border of France. In addition, William became hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg. The Congress of Vienna gave Luxembourg to William personally in exchange for his German possessions, Nassau-Dillenburg, Siegen, Hadamar and Diez.
Belgium rebelled and gained independence in 1830, while the personal union between Luxembourg and the Netherlands was severed in 1890, when King William III of the Netherlands died with no surviving male heirs. Ascendancy laws prevented his daughter Queen Wilhelmina from becoming the next Grand Duchess. Therefore the throne of Luxembourg passed over from the House of Orange-Nassau to the House of Nassau-Weilburg, another branch of the House of Nassau.
The largest Dutch settlement abroad was the Cape Colony. It was established by Jan van Riebeeck on behalf of the Dutch East India Company at Capetown (Dutch: Kaapstad) in 1652. The Prince of Orange acquiesced to British occupation and control of the Cape Colony in 1788. The Netherlands also possessed several other colonies, but Dutch settlement in these lands was limited. Most notable were the vast Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and Suriname (the latter was traded with the British for New Amsterdam, now known as New York). These ‘colonies’ were first administered by the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company, both collective private enterprises. Three centuries later these companies got into financial trouble and the territories in which they operated were taken over by the Dutch government (in 1815 and 1791 respectively). Only then did they become official colonies.
During the 19th century, the Netherlands was slow to industrialize compared to neighbouring countries, mainly due to the great complexity involved in the modernizing of the infrastructure consisting largely of waterways and the great reliance its industry had on windpower.
World War I
Many historians do not recognise the Dutch involvement during World War I. However, recently historians started to change their opinion on the role of the Dutch. Although the Netherlands remained neutral during the war, it was heavily involved in the war.  Von Schlieffen had originally planned to invade the Netherlands while advancing into France in the original Schlieffen Plan. This was changed by Helmuth von Moltke the Younger in order to maintain Dutch neutrality. Later during the war Dutch neutrality would prove essential to German survival up till the blockade integrated by the USA and Great Britain in 1916 when the import of goods through the Netherlands was no longer possible. However, the Dutch were able to remain neutral during the war using their diplomacy and their ability to trade. 
World War II
The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I and intended to do so in World War II. However, Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940 in the Western European campaign of the Second World War. The country was quickly overrun and the army main force surrendered on May 14 after the bombing of Rotterdam, although a Dutch and French allied force held the province of Zeeland for a short time after the Dutch surrender. The Kingdom as such continued the war from the colonial empire; the government in exile resided in London.
During the occupation over 100,000 Dutch Jews  were rounded up to be transported to Nazi concentration camps in Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia. By the time these camps were liberated, only 876 Dutch Jews survived. Dutch workers were conscripted for forced labour in German factories, civilians were killed in reprisal for attacks on German soldiers, and the countryside was plundered for food for German soldiers in the Netherlands and for shipment to Germany. Although there are many stories of Dutch people risking their lives by hiding Jews from the Germans, like in the diary of Anne Frank, there were also Dutch people who collaborated with Nazi occupiers in hunting down and arresting hiding Jews, and some joined the Waffen-SS to form the 4th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Brigade Netherlands, fighting on the Eastern Front.
The government-in-exile lost control of its major colonial stronghold, the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia), to Japanese forces in March 1942. “American-British-Dutch-Australian” (ABDA) forces fought hard in some instances, but were overwhelmed. During the occupation, the Japanese interned Dutch civilians and used both them and Indonesian civilians as forced labour, both in the Netherlands East Indies and in neighbouring countries. This included forcing women to work as “comfort women” (sex slaves) for Japanese personnel. Some military personnel escaped to Australia and other Allied countries from where they carried on the fight against Japan.
After a first liberation attempt by the Allied 21st Army Group stalled, much of the northern Netherlands was subject to the Dutch famine of 1944, caused by the disrupted transportation system, caused by German destruction of dikes to slow allied advances, and German confiscation of much food and livestock and above that all a very severe winter made the “Hunger Winter” of 1944-1945 one in which malnutrition and starvation were rife among the Dutch population. German forces held out until the surrender of May 5, 1945, in Wageningen at Hotel De Wereld.
After the war
After the war, the Dutch economy prospered by leaving behind an era of neutrality and gaining closer ties with neighbouring states. The Netherlands became a member of the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) grouping. Furthermore, the Netherlands was among the twelve founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and among the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community, which would later evolve, via the EEC (Common Market), into the European Union.
Location: Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between Belgium and Germany
Geographic coordinates: 52 30 N, 5 45 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 41,526 sq km
land: 33,883 sq km
water: 7,643 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey
Land boundaries: total: 1,027 km
border countries: Belgium 450 km, Germany 577 km
Coastline: 451 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
Climate: temperate; marine; cool summers and mild winters
Terrain: mostly coastal lowland and reclaimed land (polders); some hills in southeast
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Zuidplaspolder -7 m
highest point: Vaalserberg 322 m
Natural resources: natural gas, petroleum, peat, limestone, salt, sand and gravel, arable land
Land use: arable land: 21.96%
permanent crops: 0.77%
other: 77.27% (2005)
Irrigated land: 5,650 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 89.7 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 8.86 cu km/yr (6%/60%/34%)
per capita: 544 cu m/yr (2001)
Natural hazards: flooding
Environment – current issues: water pollution in the form of heavy metals, organic compounds, and nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates; air pollution from vehicles and refining activities; acid rain
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
Geography – note: located at mouths of three major European rivers (Rhine, Maas or Meuse, and Schelde)
The Netherlands has been a constitutional monarchy since 1815 and a parliamentary democracy since 1848; before that it had been a republic from 1581 to 1806 and a kingdom between 1806 and 1810 (it was part of France between 1810 and 1813). The Netherlands is described as a consociational state. Dutch politics and governance are characterised by an effort to achieve broad consensus on important issues, within both the political community and society as a whole. In 2007, The Economist ranked The Netherlands as the third most democratic country in the world.
The head of state is the monarch, at present Queen Beatrix. Constitutionally the monarch still has considerable powers, but in practice it has become a ceremonial function. The monarch can exert most influence during the formation of a new cabinet, where he/she serves as neutral arbiter between the political parties.
In practice the executive power is formed by de ministerraad Dutch cabinet. Because of the multi-party system no party has ever held a majority in parliament since the 19th century, therefore coalition cabinets have to be formed. The cabinet consists usually of around thirteen to sixteen ministers of which between one and three ministers without portfolio, and a varying number of state secretaries. The head of government is the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, who is often, but not always, the leader of the largest party in the coalition. In practice the Prime Minister has been the leader of the largest coalition party since 1973. He is a primus inter pares, meaning he has no explicit powers that go beyond those of the other ministers.
The cabinet is responsible to the bicameral parliament, the States-General which also has legislative powers. The 150 members of the Second Chamber, the Lower House, are elected in direct elections, which are held every four years or after the fall of the cabinet (by example: when one of the chambers carries a motion of no-confidence, the cabinet offers her resignation to the monarch). The provincial assemblies are directly elected every four years as well. The members of the provincial assemblies elect the 75 members of the First Chamber, the upper house, which has less legislative powers, as it can merely reject laws, not propose or amend them.
Both trade unions and employers organisations are consulted beforehand in policymaking in the financial, economic and social areas. They meet regularly with government in the Social-Economic Council. This body advises government and its advice cannot be put aside easily.
While historically the Dutch foreign policy was characterised by neutrality, since the Second World War the Netherlands became a member of a large number of international organisations, most prominently the UN, NATO and the EU. The Dutch economy is very open and relies on international trade.
The Netherlands has a long tradition of social tolerance. In the 18th century, while the Dutch Reformed Church was the state religion, Catholicism and Judaism were tolerated. In the late 19th century this Dutch tradition of religious tolerance transformed into a system of pillarisation, in which religious groups coexisted separately and only interacted at the level of government. This tradition of tolerance is linked to the Dutch policies on recreational drugs, prostitution, LGBT rights, euthanasia, and abortion which are among the most liberal in the world.
The Binnenhof is the centre of Dutch politics.
Since suffrage became universal in 1919 the Dutch political system has been dominated by three families of political parties: the strongest family were the Christian democrats currently represented by the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), second were the social democrats, of which the Labour Party (PvdA) is currently the largest party and third were the liberals of which the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) is the main representative. These cooperated in coalition cabinets in which the Christian democrats had always been partner: so either a centre left coalition of the Christian democrats and social democrats or a centre right coalition of Christian democrats and liberals. In the 1970s the party system became more volatile: the Christian democratic parties lost seats, while new parties, like the radical democrat and progressive liberal D66, became successful.
In the 1994 election the CDA lost its dominant position. A “purple” cabinet was formed by the VVD, D66 and PvdA. In 2002 elections this cabinet lost its majority, due to the rise of LPF, a new political party around the flamboyant populist Pim Fortuyn, who was shot to death a week before the elections took place. The elections also saw increased support for the CDA. A short lived cabinet was formed by CDA, VVD and LPF, led by the leader of the Christian democrats, Jan Peter Balkenende. After the 2003 elections in which the LPF lost almost all its seats, a cabinet was formed by the CDA, the VVD and D66. The cabinet initiated an ambitious program of reforming the welfare state, the health care system and immigration policies.
In June 2006 the cabinet fell, as D66 voted in favour of a motion of no confidence against minister of immigration and integration Rita Verdonk in the aftermath of the upheaval about the asylum procedure of Ayaan Hirsi Ali instigated by the Dutch immigration minister Verdonk. A care taker cabinet was formed by CDA and VVD, and the general elections were held on 22 November 2006. In these elections the Christian Democratic Appeal remained the largest party and the Socialist Party made the largest gains. The formation of a new cabinet started two days after the elections. Initial investigations toward a CDA-SP-PvdA coalition failed, after which a coalition of CDA, PvdA and ChristianUnion was formed.
Population: 16,645,313 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 17.6% (male 1,496,348/female 1,427,297)
15-64 years: 67.8% (male 5,705,003/female 5,583,787)
65 years and over: 14.6% (male 1,040,932/female 1,391,946) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 40 years
male: 39.2 years
female: 40.9 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.436% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 10.53 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 8.71 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 2.55 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 4.81 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 5.34 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.25 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.25 years
male: 76.66 years
female: 81.98 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.66 children born/woman (2008 est.)
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BRAZILIAN NEWS AGENCY 247)
ECUADOR’S JUSTICE ORDERS FORMER PRESIDENT RAFAEL CORREA ARRESTED
Judge Daniella Camacho responded to a request from the Ecuadorian Public Prosecutor’s Office and ordered the pre-trial detention of former President Rafael Correa on Tuesday 3; the motive would be noncompliance with a precautionary measure for him to appear before the court in Quito on Monday to clarify the case he is accused of involvement in an attempted kidnapping of a former MEP in 2012; as he lives in Belgium, he attended the consulate of Ecuador in the country
247 – Judge Daniella Camacho of Ecuador’s National Court of Justice has responded to a request from the Ecuadorian Public Prosecutor’s Office and ordered the arrest of former President Rafael Correa on Tuesday.
The reason would be the noncompliance with a precautionary measure for him to appear before the court in Quito on Monday. Accused of involvement in an attempted kidnapping of former opposition congressman Fernando Balda in Colombia in 2012, Correa would have to appear every 15 days, counted from July 2, to give clarification on the case.
Since he has lived in Belgium since May, the former president attended the Consulate of Ecuador in the country on Monday. He claims there is no evidence linking him to the case.
The request for arrest was made by Attorney General Paul Perez, during a hearing of review of precautionary measures applied to Correa, in the National Court of Justice (CNJ) of Quito, according to ANSA information.
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The French-language Belgian news site LaLibre reported that the man had shouted “Allahu akbar” before police shot him.
Police and an ambulance are seen at the site where a gunman shot dead three people, two of them policemen, before being killed by elite officers, in the eastern Belgian city of Liege on May 29, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS)
The file has been passed to the federal prosecutor responsible for terrorism, one person at the Liege federal prosecutor’s office, spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt, said.
“There are elements that go in the direction of a terrorist act,” he was quoted by the French language RTL news site as saying.
But Catherine Collignon, another spokeswoman for the same office, told the AFP news agency that the attacker’s motive was not immediately clear. “We don’t know anything yet,” she said.
Media reports said the gunman shot dead two police officers at a cafe before fleeing to the Lycee Waha school, where he took a cleaning lady hostage.
Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon said Belgium’s Federal Crisis Center was monitoring the situation.
FRANCE 24 English
A #gunman killed three people, two of them policemen, in the eastern Belgian city of #Liège before he was shot dead by officers, prosecutors have said
“In this way we are tackling Salafist, violent extremist influences,” Interior Minister Jan Jambon tweeted.
The mosque will henceforth be administered locally.
“From now on, the mosque will have to establish a lasting relation with the Belgian authorities, while respecting the laws and the traditions of our country, which convey a tolerant vision of Islam,” Justice Minister Koen Geens said.
Europe has seen increased scrutiny of mosques and their teachings following an uptick in attacks by Islamists in recent years. Houses of worship have been shuttered in France, the UK and Germany, among others.
BARCELONA — A Spanish judge on Thursday ordered the jailing of eight of Catalonia’s separatist leaders a week after the region declared independence, extending the tough crackdown on the breakaway effort.The decision not to free the former officials on bail ahead of their trials on charges of rebellion, sedition and the misuse of public funds came after an Oct. 27 takeover of the region following the Catalan Parliament’s vote to secede.
The imprisonments set off an immediate outcry from independence advocates in Catalonia, who said they fit into a repressive pattern from the Spanish state that began when national police intervened with truncheons and violence to try to prevent an independence referendum from being held on Oct. 1. Town squares across Catalonia filled with protesters after the decision was announced late Thursday afternoon.
A prosecutor also asked Judge Carmen Lamela to approve an international arrest warrant for former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium on Monday alongside other officials. An extradition request would set the ground for a difficult diplomatic dance between Spain and Belgium, which allows E.U. citizens to claim political asylum and which is partly ruled by Flemish nationalists sympathetic to the Catalan cause.
Lamela planned to decide on the warrant Friday. In denying bail, she said the leaders still in Spain were a flight risk, citing the retreat by Puigdemont and others to Brussels.
Catalan secessionist leaders arrive at court without Puigdemont
Catalonia’s secessionist leaders arrived at a Madrid court Nov. 2 to answer charges of rebellion and sedition. The region’s former president Carles Puigdemont said he would not turn up. (Reuters)
Puigdemont refused to appear at the Madrid court on Thursday, saying that the charges were politically motivated. The leaders are facing prison terms of up to 30 years. In all, 20 officials are charged.
Apart from the eight people sent to jail Thursday, a ninth was allowed free on bail of $58,000 because he resigned from the Catalan government before the independence declaration.
“A long and fierce repression lies ahead. We must combat the situation as Catalans do, without violence, in peace,” Puigdemont said Thursday in a televised address to Catalans that appeared to be recorded in his Brussels hotel room. He has said that he remains Catalonia’s leader and that the decision by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to use constitutional powers to strip him of office was illegal.
The decision to put the former officials behind bars meant that the highest-profile Catalan separatist leaders will probably not be able to run in Dec. 21 regional elections that Rajoy called after dismissing the government. After darkness fell Thursday, the former officials were transferred in police vans with flashing blue lights to the Alcala-Meco Prison outside Madrid.
The move was condemned even by some pro-union Catalan leaders, who said it was needlessly harsh.
“This is a black day for democracy and for Catalonia,” said Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, who appeared close to tears as she spoke to journalists late Thursday. Colau has said she believes Catalonia should have more autonomy but should not be independent.
The crackdown drew condemnation from several other leaders in Europe, including the heads of Scotland and Belgian Flanders, two regions that have sought independence or more autonomy from their national governments.
What’s most important from where the world meets Washington
“Jailing democratically elected government leaders = more than bridge too far,” the leader of Belgium’s Flanders region, Geert Bourgeois, wrote on Twitter.
That was echoed by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who wrote that “regardless of opinion on Catalonia, the jailing of elected leaders is wrong and should be condemned by all democrats.” She added: “The disagreement about Catalonia’s future is political. It should be resolved democratically — not by the jailing of political opponents.”
Opinion polls show that support for independence in Catalonia is growing but that slightly less than half of the population seeks a split.
Braden Phillips contributed to this report.
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A man steered a stolen beer truck into a crowd of people and then rammed it into a department store, killing at least three people in what officials were calling a terrorist attack in the heart of Stockholm on Friday afternoon.
“Sweden has been attacked. All indications are that it was a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said in a statement.
The suspect in the attack was still at large. But at a news conference later in the evening, the Swedish police released a photo of a man being sought in connection for questioning.
The authorities said they did not know if it had been an isolated assault, or something bigger. The Swedish intelligence agency said “a large number” of people had been wounded.
Mats Löfving, the head of national operative department of the Swedish police, said, “This is now declared a national security event,” adding that officers across the nation were on heightened alert.
The Swedish Parliament was on lockdown, according to news reports. Train service in and out of the city grounded to a halt, and the police, who blocked off the affected area, urged people to stay at home and to avoid the city center.
The police said the first emergency call came in around 2:50 p.m. local time as the attack unfolded in Drottninggatan, Stockholm’s busiest shopping street. Witnesses described a scene of panic and terror.
“I saw hundreds of people running; they ran for their lives” before the truck crashed into the Ahlens department store, a witness identified only as Anna told the newspaper Aftonbladet.
At first, she said, she thought the noise was people moving things around the store, but then the fire alarm went off and staff members told her and other shoppers to get out of the building.
“We were running, we were crying, everyone was in shock,” Ms. Libert said. “We rushed down the street, and I glanced to the right and saw the truck. People were lying on the ground. They were not moving.”
Ms. Libert, who followed others as they were guided by officials to shelter, added, “My sister in law and some friends are close to the scene and at lockdown, can’t leave their office.”
She said that she usually avoided busy areas that could be potential terrorist targets, but that she had decided to take the Friday afternoon off to do some shopping.
“Some people felt that this was just a matter of time,” she said. “Paris, Brussels, London and now Stockholm. I just had a feeling something like this would happen.”
After the assailant plowed into people, the front of the truck ended up inside the department store.
A representative of the Spendrups brewery told Radio Sweden that the vehicle had been taken earlier in the day. A spokesman for the company told SVT, a national public broadcaster, that the truck had been stolen while the driver was loading it from the rear.
The brewery’s driver told the police that a masked man stole the vehicle, and that he was injured trying to stop him, the authorities said.
At the news conference, officials released a photo of a man wearing a hoodie. They did not name him as a suspect, saying only that they wanted to question him in connection with the attack.
The national police chief, Dan Eliasson, said, “We have the truck and the driver who usually drives it, but we do not have contact with the person or persons who drove it.”
Mr. Löfving, also of the police, asked for the public’s help in sharing the photo: “We want to get in touch with this man.”
The authorities also said that they could not confirm the number of dead or injured until they received more information from the hospitals.
The chief medical doctor at Stockholm’s Karolinska University Hospital, Nelson Follin, told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the hospital was treating “a handful” of people.
“The injuries are quite serious, but for now I cannot give further comments on conditions,” Dr. Follin said.
Previous accounts of shots being fired in parts of Stockholm were unfounded, the police said, adding that officers across Sweden were protecting high-risk sites.
The attack reverberated as far away as Norway, where the police said on Twitter that officers in that nation’s largest cities and at the airport in Oslo would be armed until further notice following the attack in Stockholm.
The assault came after several other episodes in Europe in the past year in which a vehicle was used to attack people.
The Islamic State group revived the idea of using cars as weapons after it broke with Al Qaeda in 2014. In the past year, ISIS militants have claimed responsibility for the deaths of more than 100 people in Europe.
Although some Swedes have expressed concern that immigration has led to a crime wave in the country — and President Trump seemed to suggest in a speech on Feb. 18 that there had been an attack in Sweden, when in fact nothing had occurred — the country and the region remain largely peaceful and safe.
The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has released new footage of the ice crack that promises to produce a giant berg.
The 175 km-long fissure runs through the Larsen C Ice Shelf on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula.
If it propagates just 20km more, a block of ice a quarter the size of Wales will break away into the Weddell Sea.
Scientists gathered the new video while recovering instrumentation that had been placed on the ice shelf.
Uncertainty about the stability of the region means researchers cannot set up camp as they would normally do, and instead make short visits in a Twin Otter plane.
The most recent sortie enabled the researchers also to fly along the length of the crack, which is 400-500m wide in places, to assess its status.
No-one can say for sure when the iceberg will calve, but it could happen anytime.
At 5,000 sq km, it would be one of the biggest ever recorded.
When it splits, interest will centre on how the breakage will affect the remaining shelf structure.
The Larsen B Ice Shelf further to the north famously shattered following a similar large calving event in 2002.
The issue is important because floating ice shelves ordinarily act as a buttress to the glaciers flowing off the land behind them.
In the case of Larsen B, those glaciers subsequently sped up in the absence of the shelf. And it is the land ice – not the floating ice in a shelf – that adds to sea level rise.
If Larsen C were to go the same way it would continue a trend across the Antarctic Peninsula.
In recent decades, a dozen major ice shelves have disintegrated, significantly retreated or lost substantial volume – including Prince Gustav Channel, Larsen Inlet, Larsen A, Larsen B, Wordie, Muller, Jones Channel, and Wilkins.
Dr Paul Holland from BAS commented: “Iceberg calving is a normal part of the glacier life cycle, and there is every chance that Larsen C will remain stable and this ice will regrow.
“However, it is also possible that this iceberg calving will leave Larsen C in an unstable configuration. If that happens, further iceberg calving could cause a retreat of Larsen C.
“We won’t be able to tell whether Larsen C is unstable until the iceberg has calved and we are able to understand the behaviour of the remaining ice.”
The removal of the ice would also enable scientists to study the uncovered seabed.
When Larsen B broke away, the immediate investigation chanced upon new species.
Under the Antarctic Treaty, no fishing activity would be permitted in the area for 10 years.
The big bergs that break away from Antarctica are monitored from space.
They will often drift out into the Southern Ocean where they can become a hazard to shipping.
The biggest iceberg recorded in the satellite era was an object called B-15.
Covering an area of some 11,000 sq km, it came away from the Ross Ice Shelf in 2000.
Six years later fragments of the super-berg passed by New Zealand.
In 1956, a berg of roughly 32,000 sq km – bigger than Belgium – was spotted in the Ross Sea by a US Navy icebreaker. But there were no satellites at that time to follow-up.
Many of the bergs that break away from the Weddell Sea area of Antarctica get exported into the Atlantic. A good number get caught on the shallow continental shelf around the British overseas territory of South Georgia where they gradually wither away.
The study of the Larsen C Ice Shelf is led by Swansea University through its MIDAS Project, which involves BAS.
Today, ISIS which plays the role of a well-known terrorist threat to the West, sponsors its very own Amaq news agency, issuing dispatches on a 24-hour news cycle by the use of mobile technology. ISIS claimed responsibility on Tuesday’s bombings in Brussels through the agency itself, stationing reports in two languages, consequently, in English and then Arabic in a detached journalistic style without images or statements from its leader.
Noting that the news agency is named after a Syrian town mentioned in an ancient prophecy; as the site for an apocalyptic victory over non-believers.
Very much aware of the propaganda value of outlining itself as a militant in an uneven struggle, Amaq stated that the attacks were part of a broader war with an international coalition.
Charlie Winter, a senior research associate at Georgia State University in Atlanta, said that Amaq is an effort to grab “information dominance” over enemies. The latter stated by phone, that the agency is being used as a part of a wider propaganda strategy in the first place, and also used for tactical and strategic gains, in the second place. Winter added that the group is “very keen on having a very centralized message.”
Initially, Amaq uses WordPress blogging platform to send out press releases and reports, however today the agency is willing to implement encrypted technology to evade ever-tighter monitoring of social media.
The agency, first appeared in late 2014 when ISIS was making an effort to take over the northern Syrian city of Kobani from its Kurdish defenders, part of an offensive that also saw the group establish a presence in large swaths of neighboring Iraq. Amaq also was the tool ISIS used to claim power over the couple responsible for the shootings last year in San Bernardino, California.
It can be said that he agency has played a leading role in rapidly moving the ISIS propaganda machine beyond the barrage of comments provided by supporters on social media.
News from different world target countries are covered by Amaq, for instance the agency carries reports on events from Libya and Iraq to the Philippines, in 4 languages covering Arabic, English, French and Russian. However, it abstains from publishing videos of beheadings and other graphic images of ISIS actions, which in other words deliver more intelligent messages, such as in its labeling of suicide bombings as “martyrdom operations.”
It’s referred to within the ISIS administration as an “auxiliary” media unit, said Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, a research fellow at the Middle East Forum based in Philadelphia. It tracks conflict and the provision of services in provinces the group rules, but isn’t branded with ISIS symbols.
“They’re a part of ISIS, a full part of the media strategy,” he said by phone, adding that it’s unclear who heads the operation and from where. An application developed by Amaq called Arawi, which means a storyteller or narrator in Arabic.
There are many others ways that are being adopted by ISIS to communicate with those who are supporters, including encrypted Telegram Messenger Service, prompting Telegram to remove multi-user “channels” that members complained were promoting the terrorist group.
ISIS adoption of new platforms could be a consequence of a crackdown by tech companies. Scott Stewart, vice president of tactical analysis at Austin, Texas-based strategic advisory firm Stratfor, said that ISIS had a very strong presence on twitter until the site moved to reduce its presence.
Certain ISIS attempts to invent media portals have not been successful to attract big numbers of followers, as in the case of an attempted social-media network called Kilafahbook. However, its drive toward the latest technology did not stop. Following Brussels attacks the group called for “brothers in Belgium” to use encryption and “stay away from social media.”
It seems like ISIS has strong confident ambition that can go the encrypted route, and ironically so far it seems to be working, said Tricia Bacon, a professor of public affairs at American University in Washington and former State Department counter-terrorism official. As for Intelligence agencies, they don’t appear to have failed at some point and not had much success detecting electronic communications as ISIS plotted the attacks in Belgium or the earlier assault on Paris, she said.
“There’s going to be a lot of variation in who’s able to keep up and who’s not,” Bacon said. “Belgium has not been able to keep up, as evidenced by the attacks.”
Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.
Source: AFP | August 30, 2016, Tuesday | PRINT EDITION
ATTACKERS rammed a car through the gates of Belgium’s national crime laboratory yesterday in Brussels and then started a fire in what officials said may have been an attempt to destroy evidence.
Five people were arrested nearby but later released, while prosecutors said there was no confirmed link to terrorism so far. No one was injured in the fire or by a large explosion which shook houses nearby.
The incident comes as Belgium remains on high alert following suicide attacks on the capital’s airport and metro system in March which were claimed by the Islamic State group.
“This location was not chosen randomly,” said Ine Van Wymersch, a spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor’s office, adding that the institute deals with “sensitive information in connection with several ongoing cases.”
Prosecutors had opened an investigation into “deliberate arson of a building and damage by explosion,” while bomb disposal experts attended the scene. “The possibility of a terrorist act is not confirmed. It goes without saying that several individuals may have wanted to destroy evidence related to their legal cases,” Van Wymersch added.
She said that “several attackers forced their way into the institute using their car and were able to attack the building” and had apparently deliberately targeted the wing where the laboratories are located.
The incident happened in the early hours yesterday at the national criminology institute in Neder-Over-Hembeek, a northern suburb of Brussels, and near the famed Atomium tourist attraction.
Part of the building was scorched and burned out, while a burned out car was lifted from the scene by a crane. The institute is part of Belgium’s federal justice system. Among its tasks is carrying out forensic analysis for criminal cases. Belgium has been on high alert after suicide bombers struck Brussels airport and a metro station near the EU headquarters on March 22, killing 32 people.
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